In his June 16 speech in Miami announcing a new Cuba policy, and in the “National Security Presidential Memorandum on Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba” issued on the same date, President Donald Trump made a number of comments that distort Cuban reality.
Trump described Cuba as ruled by a brutal communist regime that suppresses freedom and human rights, denies democracy and free enterprise, arbitrarily arrests dissidents and peaceful protestors, prosecutes religious practices, does not recognize alternative political parties and does not have elections. He further maintained that the military forces and intelligence and security services are at the core of the regime.
In these commentaries, the President of the United States displayed a stunning ignorance of the nation concerning which he was announcing policy. In fact, the Cuban Revolution has developed an alternative system of democracy, a system of popular democracy, structurally different from representative democracy (see “The Cuban revolutionary project and its development in historical and global context”). Cuba developed the alternative system as a result of its adverse experiences with representative democracy during the U.S.-dominated neocolonial republic from 1902 to 1959. It found that democracy “made in the U.S.A.” was unable to protect the sovereignty of the nation or to respond to the social and economic needs of the great majority. So after the triumph of the revolution, it worked on developing an alternative system of democracy, which was established in the Constitution of 1976, a decade in which the U.S.A.-Cuba conflict had abated and in which the revolution institutionalized a number of revolutionary practices.
The Cuban system of popular democracy is developed on a foundation of secret and direct elections in voting districts of 1000 to 1500 voters, which elect delegates to 169 local assemblies throughout the nation. The delegates are elected from among two or more candidates who are nominated directly by the citizens in a series of neighborhood assemblies. The elected delegates to the local assemblies in turn elect the delegates to the fifteen provincial assemblies as well as the deputies to the National Assembly of Popular Power, which then elects the thirty-one members of the Council of State (the executive branch). The ministries of the armed forces and the interior (security and intelligence) are only two of various ministries in the executive branch, and they are under the jurisdiction of the Council of State and the National Assembly.
The electoral process, from nomination to election, occurs without the participation of political parties, without political campaigns, and without campaign financing. All citizens 16 years of age or older are eligible to vote, and the participation rate is in excess of 90%. All citizens are eligible to be delegates and deputies, regardless of ideology or political party affiliation. In the nomination process, qualities of the candidates are discussed, rather than issues. Issues are discussed in ongoing meetings of the people in neighborhoods and places of work and study, separately from the electoral process. People are entirely free to express their views on a variety of subjects, although counterrevolutionary views are so contrary to the prevailing popular consciousness that open expression of them generally leads to a decline in influence among fellow citizens. And as in any society, no one has the right to engage in violent protest, nor the right to engage in disruptive behavior under the employment of representatives of a foreign power.
Trump spoke of “dissidents,” but one doubts that he or any of his advisors had previously read an interesting book on the “dissidents,” in spite of the fact that an English translation is available. The book consists of interviews of Cuban agents who had infiltrated counterrevolutionary groups in Cuba. The agents describe the tendencies in the groups toward: using connections with the United States as a basis for improving personal economic situation; very limited influence among the people, who generally view them as U.S. servants; deliberating fabricating false news stories that damage the image of Cuba; and engaging in violent and illegal activities. The book exposes the weak and decadent character of Cuban political dissidents.
Trump spoke of the Cuban dissidents in such terms that, from the Cuban perspective, it appeared that he was converting terrorists into heroes. This aspect of the June 16 “show” has provoked the most indignation in Cuba. Cuban television news has been presenting news stories concerning specific persons who were lauded by Trump, explaining who these people are. For example, one woman praised by Trump was identified in Cuban news as involved in the “banditry” in the mountains of south-central and western Cuban from 1959 to 1965. The story of the banditry is little known in the United States, but far from forgotten in Cuba. The bandits were operating as counterrevolutionary guerrillas, with logistical and financial support from the CIA. But a guerrilla troop cannot function without the support of the locals, and these counterrevolutionary forces did not have popular support. So they became bandits, and their activities included murdering civilians, including peasants as well as young teachers in the revolutionary literacy program in the mountains. Cuban scholars maintain that nearly 200 people were killed during the six-year campaign, which was brought to an end by revolutionary militias who tracked down the gangs and disabled them. The woman embraced by Trump was tried in Cuban courts for her involvement in these activities, and was sentenced to 18 years in prison, serving 14 years before being released. She subsequently emigrated to the United States, and attained some fame as an “independent journalist” in opposition to the Cuban government. Cuban journalists say that she received payment in excess of fifty thousand dollars for writing articles defaming the five Cuban security agents who had infiltrated counterrevolutionary terrorist groups in Miami. (The five subsequently became internationally renowned political prisoners in the United States before being released by Obama as part of the normalization of relations). Whereas Trump referred to this “independent journalist” as an ex-political prisoner, Cuban journalists and government officials view her as an ex-terrorist who today receives payment for disseminating false information about her native country.
Trump believes that Cuba is not alone in its alleged shortcomings, for he declared that “communism has destroyed every single nation where it has ever been tried.” But he has revealed no understanding of what communism is, especially in its Third World manifestations. In the Third World, there has emerged during the past 100 years leaders who are intellectually prepared, politically astute, and morally committed; and who constructed syntheses of Marxism-Leninism with national traditions of anti-colonial struggle for national liberation. As the Third World project of national and social liberation evolved, it arrived to forge a common vision of a more just, democratic and sustainable world, and to formulate the fundamental principles of a more just world-system. Trump knows nothing of this historically evolving social project, and therefore he is not qualified to offer a reasonable view on whatever its shortcomings may or may not be. But in fact, the Third World project is pointing toward the necessary road, if humanity is to emancipate itself from the dominating global structures that promote conflict, generate extreme inequalities and extreme poverty, and threaten the survival of the human species.
Although Trump lacks the knowledge to lead in an enlightened form, he possesses a certain political instinct that enables him to touch upon the concerns of the people, who are ill at ease with globalism, post-modernism, and neoliberalism. I will discuss this logic of Trump in the next post.
Elizalde, Rosa Miriam and Luis Baez. 2003. “Los Disidentes”: Agentes de la Seguridad Cubana Revelan la Historia Real. La Habana: Editora Política.